(first 11 pages)
The year is 1995.
A chain of bright yellow school buses chug to a halt in front of Langston High School, spewing plumes of exhaust from their mufflers as the children disembark toward another rollercoaster school day. Sunlight glints off the front grilles of the vehicles occupying the parking lot and warms the skin of the upper classmen sauntering toward the building. Ghosts of conversation haunt the parking lot and echoes off the square ribbed metal gable shading the school’s front entrance.
Bus Number 25 eases to a stop in front of the school, its engine purring like a contented feline. It gives a low pneumatic wheeze as its doors unfurl and open, spilling a gust of mingled smells into the bus. As always, the bus driver–an overweight man with thinning red hair named what else but Red–tells the last one off the bus to “have a good day” and watches them step off with admiration gleaming in his eyes.
The last one off of the bus is one Abbie McDonald. She is a freshman and way past the point of shaking hands with the same sense of anxiety she’d faced in the beginning of the year. Her stomach does not flutter nor does she run alongside the bus as it is rolling away from the front of the school and slap frantically at its doors until the driver agrees to take her home.
At first, the place had not resembled a haven of knowledge and friendship. Instead, it had the eerie feeling of a gothic castle in a fairy tale. The months fade into days and those days slips through their fingers like the wind itself.
Langston High is housed inside of a low-slung, white-brick building in the shape of an H that sat on a large patch of neatly manicured grass. The soft yellow tips of the goal posts standing at their respective ends of the football field behind the school emerges in the distance and pokes an accusing finger at the clear blue sky. Tall goose-necked black-iron streetlamps loom above the parking lot; rows of neatly-clipped evergreen bushes line the front of the school and hug both East and West entrances.
Abbie draws a mingled cloud of air deep into her lungs, winces at the scent of exhaust fumes drifting past her nose and wraps her right hand around the right strap of her dark-green bookbag. Her long blonde hair weaving in the tainted breeze, she makes her way through the throng of students huddling together to regale their friends and steps through the automatic sliding glass doors.
Plumes of cool air drifts through the building, caressing her skin. Circular recessed lights pour cones of soft amber light across the school’s shiny brown linoleum floor and rough lime-green walls. She turns the corner and strolls down the hallway amidst the raspy sound of her school supplies stirring inside of her bookbag.
More student occupy the halls, leaning against their half-open lockers or parade back and forth across the hallway with their friends, their faces heavy with fatigue. The classrooms sit diagonally across from one another, their half-open doors spreading carpets of sunlight across the hall; the cafeteria is located on the far right on the crown of a green-tiled incline.
The year is 1995 and anything is possible.
She scans the beige-metallic lockers stretching along both sides in neat little rows, their thin ribbed grates glinting in the overhead light, in search of her own. She peers into the rectangular wire-mesh windows the tall hollow metal doors standing between each row, earmarked by large black-iron numbers long enough to see if they were inside and flicks her gaze away before she makes eye contact with the wrong person. She strides across the patch of sunlight flooding across the hallway from inside the school library sitting behind a four large metal and glass doors.
By the looks on the faces of the other students, none of them want to be here today. For the first time ever, she feels their pain. If she had her way about it, she would hang out with Mrs. Triana and read the supernatural tales of Edgar Allan Poe and eat cheese pizza until the last bell rang but–even if she had not taken the same job with that private school in Charleston–she would never approve of a life without an education.
She scans the intermittent cluster of students spaced out evenly along the halls. Young couples staring dreamily at one another, the boy leaning his good arm against her locker while the girl clutches her textbooks tightly against her chest as she meets his gaze with stars in her eyes. And then there are the ones that are not accompanied by their romantic other half.
The other boys regale their friends with tales of false bravado that do nothing to increase the size of their dicks but still manage to get an agreeable nod or hearty chuckle. Girlfriends, not lovers but friends who have secretly been lovers at one time but will never admit it, converse amongst each other about who has a date for The Winter Prom and who does not.
The saddest part about these people is that these people may never talk to each other again once they leave this place forever. They will drift apart, carrying only the memories they had shared inside the back of their minds until their thirty-year reunion when they will pretend to be something they are not.
The prom has not left Abbie’s mind but it is not the only thing on her mind. She knows she will never get to the prom because there is not one boy who will ask her out nor is there a boy she will ever ask out. She knows what is on their mind and although she would like to go to the prom she will not go to those lengths to do so.
“What are you looking at, Fattie Abbie?”
Vince and Valerie Tomlinson lean against the doorway beside of the auditorium. They are as tough as a dead rat but they are just like everyone else. They are tougher in numbers but weaker when they are alone like all of the other bullies in America; the ones who do not throw a punch unless their friends pin you down first and give the first glib remark unless it is to impress them.
“You wanna kiss me?” Vince says.
Abbie looks away and cranes her head toward the floor, her face contorting from shame. Her grip tightens on the strap of her bookbag and strolls past.
He is a dark-haired boy in a red Ohio State tee-shirt, jeans and boots leans against the wall beside of an even shorter and female version of himself. The girl by his side is wearing a short sleeved CUCK FANCER tee-shirt, knee-length denim skirt and white sneakers with pink stripes.
“Keep walking, fat ass.”
“No.” The boy says. “More like waddling.”
He pushes himself away from the wall, holds his arms out by his sides and prances back and forth in front of his sister like an ape. She bends over clutching her books with her right arm, clamps her left hand across her mouth and snickers. Joveta Walker and her cousin Thea Stevens turn away from their open lockers to see Vince doing his immature ape dance across the hallway and joins in.
Thea says something that Abbie does not want to hear and ignites a fresh chorus of laughter across the hallway. Abbie bows her head, glances down at the floor and ignores their childish banter as she makes her way down the hall. She tightens her grip on the strap of her bookbag and hurries away from them.
Shadows scurry past her, spouting more derogatory greetings.
“Look out, Fattie Abbie.”
“Hey, its Fattie Abbie.”
“Make way,” One student says. “Fattie Abbie’s coming.”
She closes her eyes, draws back a long breath and sighs. This is not the only time they have dug at her. She is a sophomore and she has a long way to go before she is no longer condemned to hear their degrading insults.
Her parents refuse to let her attend other schools because they are too far away. Minerva Heights is twenty miles north and Straumann Academy is a private school that her father cannot afford. Home schooling is out of the question because they believe that Abbie should not be a shut-in nor should she be devoid of the chance to be social with other kids her age.
She is more concerned with her weight than anything.
“You’re not fat, honey.” Her mother had told her one day. “You’re just different from all of those skinny girls. That’s all.”
At five-foot-four, one-hundred and eighty-five, she is beyond different from all of the other girls. According to her doctor, she is twenty pounds over her normal weight. Of course, when you have a mother who cooks like her Southern ancestors, it is hard for anyone to lose even the slightest pound.
Her braces are not entirely tightened so there for she speaks as if she has a lisp although she does not. Her bottle-bottom glasses take up the majority of her face, although people say they accentuate her deep-set green eyes. The light brown freckles spread across her face remind those that know the character Pipi Longstocking of that aforementioned character.
She claims responsibility for the way she looks and therefore knows that only she can change it but there is an inner truth she clings to everyday. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes; it comes from the heart, from the soul. The sour part of that inner truth is that some people take it for granted and when they lose it they’ll throw every last cent to keep it intact because anything else would be degrading.
She does not hate the students of Langston High. Instead, she feels bad for them. She feels bad for them because they have to compensate for their cruel lives by kicking other people when they’re down. For Abbie McDonald, she is kicked because she is not skinny or pretty, nor is she willing to go into the backseat of every Tom, Dick and Harry who walks past her.
She is saving that for marriage.
She blots her hands against the front of her khaki skirt as beads of sweat trickle down her temples, tracing the contour of her cheeks. If she does not look into any of the rooms, they will not know she is here. Seven steps later, her locker materializes from the corner of her left eye; the small metal name plate on the middle of the door says 742.
She breathes a sigh of relief, slides her bookbag from her right shoulder and dials her combination. She opens her locker, perches the bottom of her bookbag on top of her right knee and zips it open. If she hurries now, she’ll get to homeroom in one piece and pretend that she–
A shadow flies past her right shoulder. A second and a third follow, shrouding her in a canopy of soft light. She snatches a quick breath, jerks her head up from her bookbag and, her heart stuttering in her chest, stiffens.
Her skin prickles with fear as she meets their gaze with wide terrified eyes.
Laura Castile, Janet Moore and Tiffany Banks. The three people she does not want to meet in Heaven, nor inside the halls of Langston High School. There is a special place for them but she is too scared to tell them to go there.
She is outnumbered three to one. Laura, Janet and Tiffany in that order from left to right.
They are much prettier and skinnier than her by far. Their parents are well-known in the city of Langston, Ohio while her parents are not. They are superior by far; her family are not worth of that luxury.
It is what it is.
Janet shifts from one foot to the other, tilts her head back, peers down at her with dark intimidating eyes and props her hands on her hips. She flicks her gaze from Abbie and across both ends of the hallway before going back to her.
“Do you still think he’s gonna ask you out?” Janet says.
“I don’t know.” Abbie says. “I kinda–”
“I kinda-” Laura says in a mocking voice.
An annoyed look etches itself across Janet’s face.
“You better think again if you think he’s gonna go out with a stupid little freshman like you . If you don’t forget about him and this stupid little fantasy of yours,” Janet says. “you’re gonna be in trouble.”
Tiffany leans over and whispers something in Janet’s ear. Janet’s gaze never wavers.
“You got something you want to say.”
“What do you want me to say?” Abbie says.
“Why the hell were you in the principal’s office last Friday?” Tiffany asks. “Laura saw you going in there during third period.”
“You didn’t say anything about happened in the girl’s locker room, did you?”
“No.” Abbie says.
“Then what were you doing there?”
“You pushed me against the wall inside the ladies bathroom and my head bounced off the automatic hair dryer.” Abbie says. “I went back to Mrs. Hatcher’s class and she made me go to the nurse’s office to get checked out.”
Confusion floods the girls’ faces, etching tiny creases along the corners of their mouths.
“Cry me a fucking river, you lying bitch.” Laura says. “I say we beat her ass and take our chances.”